Father Patrick Joseph (P.J.) McGlinchey, a pioneer on the mission fields of Korea and a man who made Jeju Island a better place to live in for all has sadly passed away.
The Leas Cheann Comhairle of Dáil Eireann, Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has paid tribute to the late Fr P.J. Mc Glinchey whose death has occurred on the island of Jeju located 70 miles of the mainland off South Korea.
The late Fr P.J. Mc Glinchey was born in Raphoe on the 6th of June, 1928. His late father was Paddy Mc Glinchey, a native of Glenfin, and his late mother Sarah O’Boyle was a native of Rutland Island.
P.J. McGlinchey was brought up and reared in Letterkenny before entering the Columban Fathers in Dalgan Park. He was ordained in 1951 to the order of Columban Missionaries. His first posting was to be also his one and only posting in his missionary life – he was appointed to the Diocese of Kwangju to serve on the Island of Jeju.
At that time the Korean peninsula was just recovering from a horrific three year war and both the economy and society were utterly devastated by the destruction of that conflict.
His arrival on the island in June 1952 saw him take over an island the size of County Donegal but with a Catholic population of just 25 people out of an overall island population of 40,000 people, with little or no real infrastructure, no health services, little access to education and no means to generate income or employment.
In the spirt of many other Columban Missionaries he undertook immediately to improve the lives of all inhabitants of the Island of Jeju. He singly pioneered improving the farming practices and yields from the island farms, drawing as he did from the experiences of his late father who was a vet and an agricultural advisor back in Donegal.
He introduced new breeds of cattle, sheep and pigs – he made existing farms more productive by encouraging co-operation between farms. He also arranged for the purchase of a co-operative farm comprising of over 2,300 acres – these lands were subsequently sublet to newly married couples in an attempt to better their start in life together.
In the next 10 years of his missionary life he put in place new health care facilities, school buildings were to follow and eventually a new church building for the island.
He also established a textile factory in order to provide employment for the women of the island. Within his first 15 years of his life on the island he had provided a complete social, economic and sustainable existence for the entire island, this at a time when the South Korean Government were struggling to establish basic services on the mainland. Fr P.J. Mc Glinchey’s endeavours became famous throughout the Far East but for him he never considered his work to be complete or ended, just entering another phase in life with more to be done.
He established a credit union to sustain local families rather than letting them fall into the grasp of money lenders. His life was devoted to the place which became home for him the island of Jeju – but, for the islanders of Jeju he became the man who saved the island and developed a sustainable way of living for them all regardless of their religious beliefs or faith. Recognised by both the Korean and Irish Governments for his lifelong commitment to the Island of Jeju – he accumulated numerous awards in his lifetime but for him the only reward worth recognising was the increasing prosperity of his people.
"I had the privilege to have met Fr P.J while on the Mission fields of Jeju Island and to witness first-hand the tremendous work carried out by him. Words will never best describe how the islanders felt about Fr P.J. For them he was the saviour of the island and the man who made life possible for thousands of people on the island.
"In the long history of Missionaries from our small country, there have been numerous exceptional men and women, but when history will be written of their times in Korea the name of the Late Fr P. J. Mc Glinchey will be foremost amongst them. A man who may have been posted miles from his native Donegal but in reality made a Donegal out of the Island of Jeju – using the spirit of the co-operative movement and the meitheal," Deputy Gallagher said.
God grant your servant Fr P. J. eternal rest, for he has carried out your work tirelessly in the mission fields and devoted his life to others without fear or falter.